I’m a 22-year-old woman in a hetero relationship with a guy I’ve been seeing for almost a year. We have a loving and communicative sex life, but are perplexed by a persisting issue! When we are fooling around, he occasionally ejaculates early and/or unexpectedly. He says it still feels like a full orgasm, but sometimes doesn’t even feel that good. We’ve had a hard time identifying when and why it happens. Hopefully you can help provide some insight!
— Prematurely Perturbed
Premature ejaculation is the most common sexual dysfunction plaguing the penis, affecting around 30 percent of men. You’re right to be curious about why this might be happening as getting down to the root of this issue is key to treating it: is the spark lighting this early lift-off fuse in his head or in his … other head?
Culturally and socially, men’s sexual issues tend to be medicalized — think the popularity of the little blue pill — while women’s tend to be viewed psychologically, socially, and relationally. This is congruent with the sexual story most of us are fed as youth, which centers the male sexual experience quite literally around his erection and orgasm while women are left to achieve orgasm through relational means (via gaining the comfort to give direction, receive pleasure, and initiate conversation about how this here clitoris actually works).
This does a disservice to all and in this case, has set your boyfriend up to feel extra failed when his erection pops then flops, as our standard sexual world can’t possibly orbit around a flaccid axis, right? Wrong!
Erections are just one tool in our sexual arsenal and making sure to not forget fingers, mouths, and toys is a great way to interrupt the cyclical nature of any sexual “dysfunction.” Meaning, if and when the cork does pop early, remember that the pleasure party doesn’t have to stop, which will take the pressure off next time and won’t reinforce the narrative that he and his penis are responsible for all the fun and/or ruining said fun.
There are physical and psychological causes and treatments for premature ejaculation. Physical causes include medication side effects (especially antidepressants), nerve damage, or an ongoing medical condition (so definitely report this to a doctor, too). Psychological contributions include (performance) anxiety, nervousness, negative body image, past unresolved trauma, or sex-negativity including the aftereffects of an overly strict religious or moral upbringing that posited sex as inherently wrong.
Physical treatments for premature ejaculation include those that reduce sensitivity like Promescent (basically a spray-on version of the numbing agent lidocaine) which, as a pleasure-centered sex educator, I don’t endorse as it’s difficult to feel good if you can’t feel. But you do you?
There are other ways to reduce sensitivity to early orgasm, like training via masturbation, that brings him closer to orgasm and then practices backing away via mindfulness or thinking of something distracting. This will help link his brain and body to a routine of ejaculation control and may also bring him more pleasure with ejaculation. As you say above, sometimes his ejaculation feels orgasmic and sometimes it doesn’t. The lack of pleasure could be from the lack of anticipatory mental and physical build up of stimulation before release.
Penis pumps, though advertised as erection-makers, create an illusion of an erection that doesn’t last by bringing blood into the penis temporarily. However, cock rings can help maintain an erection for penetrative sex. Results vary by dude as some report cock rings make them even more sensitive while others say they’re helpful in delaying gratification.
Psychological treatments include at-home remedies like increasing communication about what gets him off too quickly or just enough, having honest conversations about any lingering anxieties he might have around sex, and mixing up your sexual routines to keep him (and his mister) on their toes. Professional help like sex therapy or even just regular therapy can help discover and process causes that might be buried deeper than you can find on your own.
No matter what, create a sex life that orbits around your shared consensual pleasure, not an ejaculation timer, and the rest will surely follow.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive sex writer and educator living in the Pioneer Valley. She has a website bursting with sex advice, resources, and workshops at yanatallonhicks.com.